I recently completed a project that opened my eyes to the power of MindManager maps even though I was already an advid MindManager user. What I learned was that using MindManager to develop complex documents:
Improves the quality of my work
This is true even if I ultimate publish my work in a “traditional” document format.
As a professional writer, my primary authoring tools have always been products like Microsoft Word, FrameMaker, or HTML editors. Here at Mindjet, however, we create a great deal of internal communications using MindManager. Most of our coporate documents are published as maps. So when I was asked to produce technical documentation for internal use, I thought, “Why not create this document using MindManager?”
In the back of my mind was the thought that I’d be able to work much more quickly using MindManager. Creating complex documents such as policy guidelines, reports, project plans, marketing requirements documents or technical documentation is hard work. Not counting the research, thought, and actual writing, the mechanics of producing a document is typically about 30% of your total effort.
By using MindManager, I wanted to eliminate as much of that production overhead from my project as possible. I was amazed at the results. My task was to document a complex server installation process. I had to interview my subject matter experts, gather lots of data, understand the technology, consult with my end users, create procedures and validate my results. All of that work doesn’t include the time I need to write and produce a document.
As I went along, I used MindManager to record my progress. After 35 hours of work, I had everthing done—a complete, accurate, and very usable document for installing and configuring this server. As far as my internal customers were concerned, I was done. An effort that would have resulted in a 25-30 page document and would have required 100-125 hours was done in 35 hours. I’d just saved the company 60 to 80 hours of work.
That’s when I started thinking about taking the next step. What if I now wanted to publish this document as a traditional PDF? I had a great starting point. The map was a perfect storyboard for converting this to a traditional document. My estimate is that I would still have 40-50 hours of work to do. So even if I were to publish this document, I would have still saved 20-40 hours.
What are the lessons I take away from this experiment? By using MindManager to gather and organize my information, to turn my map into a “storyboard” for a large and complex document, I am able to significantly shorten the time it takes to author a publishable document. Not only that, but by freeing myself of the mechanics of authoring during the early stages of my project, I could focus more of my attention on gathering good data, improving my thought processes, and validating the information with my intended audience. Better output, less time.
I would be curious to know if any of you have had similar experiences developing complex information with MindManager. Where do you find value, what are the obstacles you need to overcome? What suggestions do you have for people facing large writing projects?